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Torchlight

I needed a fix and it is Blizzard’s fault.  Diablo 3, with an original target date of sometime in 2011, was pushed back yet again.  “Early 2012” is the word from Blizzard.  I’m excited for Diablo 3 and was really hoping it would appear soon.  Thus, after accepting the grim fate that I would not be playing the game until next year sometime, I finally decided to try a game that had been on my radar for a long time, but I had never given a chance.  That game would be Torchlight, developed by Runic Games.  Torchlight is unabashedly a Diablo clone.  Runic’s own description of the game says from the designers and leads of projects like Diablo and Diablo 2.  Torchlight is fun, comforting, and easy to play.  It is also infuriating.  For a game that came out in 2009, it is not just influenced by Diablo, it does it’s best to be exactly the same thing.

Most of you probably know how the game plays just from the introduction then, but for any unfamiliar, it’s simple.  Controlling one of three character classes, it’s a matter of just pointing and clicking to move or attack.  Spells and abilities are hotkeyed, health and mana restoring potions are your best friend.  Torchlight is most definitely a loot fest.  Almost every foe killed will drop some kind of loot, with upgrades coming very quickly in the early goings of the game.  After level 10 or so though, most things you find will be items you won’t want to keep, so off to vendors they go.  Look, it’s Diablo!

The character classes themselves are familiar as well, though the names have changed.  The Destroyer acts as the hulking barbarian type, his primary statistic being strength.  His abilities are designed to have him up close and personal in combat, with abilities such as Titan Stomp and Doomquake sending out waves of energy around him, usually causing swift death to most everything.  The Vanquisher plays the rogue role, specializing in dual daggers or ranged weapons.  The ranged combat seems more fun, the ability ricochet when upgraded will fire a single shot that bounces around entire rooms, taking out four or five foes with some nice visual flair.  The final class is the alchemist, which I have yet to play, but it’s clear from the games description, he plays like a mage.  While there is nothing truly creative here (the Vanquishers shot that will track enemies is called…..Seeking Shot) the game plays well.  Characters, especially after learning three or four of their class skills, become death-dealing machines.  It’s common for ten plus goblins or spiders or skeletons or whatever to charge at you, and it’s just as common to decimate the entire group with one click of the mouse.

Deep in the underground jungles....wait, the UNDERGROUND jungles? Who the hell came up with this.

The strongest aspect of Torchlight are the visuals.  No system will be taxed by this game.  The art style is well done though, and is actually probably the biggest departure from Diablo that Torchlight manages.  The characters and setting are of a cartoony nature with everything have a consistent and clean style.  Weapons and armor change the look of your chosen adventurer, sometimes in significant ways.  It makes finding that new piece of gear remain exciting throughout.  Currently my main character, a Destroyer, looks vaguely like a hulking Egyptian pharaoh that carries a skulled mace and an axe with electricity cracking across it.  In the world of lootfest games like Torchlight, this makes perfect sense.  The environments are nicely put together and have a theme.  I’ve adventured through mines, jungles, volcanoes, ruined cities, and dark scary caves.  All have different enemy types and visuals, ranging from waterfalls that fill the entire screen to enormous lava pits.  Never mind that the entire game takes place underground!

The weak point of Torchlight is most definitely the story…namely, I can’t really decide if there even is one.  There’s some sort of evil summoning guy?  I think he’s trying to raise up some monstrosities from deep within the Earth, so I’m chasing him down and down through hundreds of levels filled with monsters.  Torchlight does feature quests, but they only seem to serve as ways for you to earn bonus money, experience, and fame.  Fame seems like a cool idea, as my character is currently ranked as “Widely Known” but I have yet to figure out if it actually does anything that would make the story more interesting (increasing fame levels does give you a skill point at least.)  The townsfolk react to my presence no differently.

This is about as interesting as the rest of the story.

One aspect of Torchlight that does deserve praise is the pet system.  At the outset of the game you choose a dog or a cat, which you get to name.  The animal will follow you everywhere, doing damage in combat, but more importantly, has it’s own inventory.  Items you don’t want to keep?  Give them to your pet and at ANY TIME IN A DUNGEON, you can click a button and send your pet back to town to sell anything he has, and he’ll return with the gold after a few minutes.  It’s a great system that lets you keep adventuring instead of having to portal back to town just to sell the grey items you don’t need.  Pets can also equip some items and spells (yes, spells) to boost their own stats and prowess in combat.  So if having a cat like mine that wields the power of elements in her claws and can meow so loud nearby enemies are silenced sounds cool….well yeah, it is pretty cool.

Torchlight should have been much more than it was.  Having years to build a game, then coming up with something that is not even as good as Diablo 2 shouldn’t have happened.  It’s playable because the loot fest dungeon crawl style of game is a good one.  This is not a game that should sell millions and millions of copies and that everybody should be playing.  Quite honestly, it’s not that good.  However, if perhaps like me, you find yourself really wanting something to scratch the itch before Diablo 3 comes out, Torchlight can fill that role.  It’s mindless but fun, and carries a $15 budget price tag.  Diablo fans will enjoy it, but others should probably stay away.

It's so....so.....Diablosque

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One Response

  1. This popped up on my google alerts, so I thought I’d leave a comment. The game is how it is because it was developed from scratch, with nothing but an open source graphics engine (not game engine) in only 11 months. It’s supposed to be more comparable to Diablo 1 than Diablo 2. Similarly, Torchlight2 (out later this year) will be more along the Diablo 2 scale of things. They have a full time writer on staff for the sequel, there are four acts to the game (all of Torchlight 1’s content could fit into 2/3 of Act 1 apparently), and general improvements all around. It’ll be out before Diablo 3, so I suggest giving it a try when it comes out.

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